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Gainesville sales tax collections down, city manager says
Council also hears details on second neighborhood planning unit
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Gainesville’s sales tax collections have declined significantly because of the slowing economy, City Manager Bryan Shuler told City Council members Thursday.

Shuler said income statements from the April collections of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax were lower than that month’s collections have been since April 2005.

"That’s consistent with what we’ve been reading about at the state levels and of course the state’s ... reporting is much quicker than what we get. And they’ve already reported their May sales tax revenue being down, so we’re watching this very closely," Shuler said.

Shuler told the council the city’s collections on the tax are ahead of the budgeted amount, but the city needs to watch its collections closely to see if declining revenues become a trend.

In other business, the city’s planning director told the City Council that a second neighborhood planning unit is on the drawing board.

Rusty Ligon told council members that the city’s second neighborhood planning unit — a group of people responsible for the planning of about 240 acres of property in Ward 5 of the city — could start as soon as September.

In its early stages, the boundaries for the new unit stretch from Green Street at Holly Drive to West Academy and follow Northside Drive and Ivey Terrace to the extent of Wilshire Road.

The unit follows a prototype of the Fair Street Neighborhood Planning Unit, which defined the goals and objectives for the city’s southern limits only months ago.

The first meeting with residents of the Ridgewood/Forrest Avenue Neighborhood Planning Unit will be in September. At that meeting, residents and property owners can discuss their visions and concerns about their neighborhood
and decide on permanent boundaries of the planning unit. After the first meeting, the group will meet monthly, Ligon said.

Already, some residents of the neighborhood have expressed a desire to rezone portions of the neighborhood that allow for multifamily housing to single-family zoning.

Ligon pointed out to council members that the First Baptist Church property will fall within the boundaries of the planning unit. He said that as the church plans to expand, it should have its representatives involved in planning unit discussions.

Shuler also said the city parks and recreation department, which manages several parks inside the boundaries including Wilshire Trails, Ivey Terrace and Rock Creek Parks, should be involved in future planning discussions with residents.

As discussions continue, the boundaries of the unit could change depending on residents’ concerns, said Mayor Myrtle Figueras, who is involved with the city’s first planning unit.

"When you get the people in and start talking, one of my greatest joys (working with the Fair Street Neighborhood Planning Unit) was to see other people get into the conversation rather than the regular folks," Figueras said. "Other folks that the properties actually impact will start coming to the meetings ... and the boundaries may change depending on what the people say."